born January 6, 1929, near Kabul, Afghanistan
died December 3, 1996, Moscow, Russia
(roughly translated "little tiger") was born into a wealthy
Afghan family near Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan,
January 6, 1929. His father, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hussain, was
a friend of the royal family, especially of Gen. Mohammad
Daoud (prime minister 1953-1963; 1973-1978), cousin and
brother-in-law of King Mohammad Zahir.
background is rather hazy, as was common among those born in
or near Kabul, but most agree that he was Tajik or Qizilbash,
graduation from the Nejat High School, Karmal enrolled at the
College of Law and Political Sciences in 1951. The next year
he was arrested for holding rallies in support of Abdul Rahman
Mahmudi, the well-known revolutionary figure of the 1950s. In
prison Karmal was befriended by a fellow inmate, Mier Akbar
Khybar. A third inmate, Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang,
initiated both to pro-Moscow leftist views. Karmal then broke
off relations with the imprisoned Mahmudi because the latter
had turned pro-Beijing. Following his release in 1955, Karmal
resumed his studies at the university.
Karmal became involved in Marxist political activities while a
student at Kabul University, where he gained a law degree.
After graduation he entered the Ministry of Planning,
keeping in close touch with those who had special knowledge
on communism, among them Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang and
Ali Mohammad Zahma, a professor at Kabul University; in the
1960s Karmal addressed Farhang as ustad (master). Farhang
then introduced him to the royal court. Both played a
leading role in influencing the youth in adhering to
was a founding member of the People's Democratic Party of
Afghanistan (PDPA) and served in the National Assembly from
1965 until 1973.
When the party split (1967) into the Khalq (Taraki
and Amin)and the Parcham
factions, he became leader of the more moderate Parcham
faction. The factions
in 1977, and in April 1978 seized control of Afghanistan. Karmal was initially deputy
prime minister but following the rise of the rival Khalq
faction he was soon 'exiled' as ambassador to Prague.
The PDPA was attempting to modernize the country in line with
Marxist ideas, but there was major unrest. In December 1979
the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and called Karmal back to be
President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
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Following the fighting with the mujahedin in the 1980s Moscow
came to regard Karmal as a failure and blamed him for the
problems. On May 4 1986 he was replaced as party leader by
Mohammad Najibullah, and six months later he was relieved of
Karmal moved to
Moscow, later returning to Afghanistan for several years,
where he lived under protection of warlord Abdul Rashid
Dostum. After several years, Karmal returned to Moscow,
where he died of liver disease on December 6 1996. His cause
of death was caused by excess drinking.